Africa & Middle East: 2017 Nominees

Alsarah & The Nubatones
Manara on Wonderwheel Recordings

Africa & Middle East Africa & Middle East
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Click to listenThe Sudanese singer Alsarah was forced into exile with her family as a child and, after taking a degree in ethnomusicology, formed the Nubatones in New York in 2010. Their second album presents a mesmerising blend of ancient tradition and East African retro-pop, delivered with a powerful political message and the sheen of cutting-edge production techniques. A Top of the World in #123.

Derek Gripper
Libraries on Fire on Derek Gripper

Africa & Middle East Africa & Middle East
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Click to listenClassical guitar legend John Williams thought that Gripper’s transpositions of the 21-string kora for six-string guitar were “absolutely impossible” – until he saw them and realised it wasn’t just studio trickery. The South African’s latest album includes deathless arrangements of nine pieces, mostly associated with Toumani Diabat., played with breathtaking beauty and virtuosity. A Top of the World in #119.

Noura Mint Seymali
Arbina on Glitterbeat

Africa & Middle East Africa & Middle East
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Click to listenSaharan folk-roots saturated in swirling psych-rock effects, the second album from Mauritanian vocal powerhouse Noura Mint Seymali is a patchwork of both old and new. It deservingly earned critical acclaim in the mainstream music press as well as in world music circles. “Mauritania has such a rich musical tradition and the aim is to make it global,” she said. A Top of the World in #122.

Mahsa Vahdat
The Sun Will Rise on Kirkelig Kulturverksted

Africa & Middle East Africa & Middle East
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Click to listenSolo female singing is banned in Iran but that didn’t stop Mahsa Vahdat from recording this intensely intimate and immersive a capella collection elsewhere in the world. Her fluid, evocative voice is enhanced by being recorded in different acoustic surroundings from the Alhambra to Oslo’s Emanuel Vigeland Museum. Billed as ‘a pilgrimage to beauty,’ it was a Top of the World in #119.